Thursday, May 28, 2015

Reader Time: Miss me; miss me; how you going to keep me

need new pic, changes made
Okay, so the title's a tad silly. But...have you been waiting to read me? Wondering about my closing line at the last Reader Time post? Have I lost you as a reader?

(side step...would be nice if you were missing me on this ;)

Let's face it, finding readers is simple compared to keeping them. You can tweet, facebook, pinterest, google +, email everyone you've ever met till the cows fly home, bingo there's your readers. Potential readers, sure.

Say if even twenty of them read your story, how do you keep them for the next book.

You are writing the next book? It's finished and submitted, right?

No?

Why not?

If anyone needs to be a multi-tasker it's a writer. You need to work to keep our attention. You need to pamper us, coddle us, give us some treats and attention. We're a fickle bunch. We don't like waiting around.

Yes, I over exaggerate. We're not that fickle.

However, there is truth to the saying, strike while the iron is hot. Keep writing. Let us know there's more. Share with us the process. Don't forget about us. Don't take us for granted.

I'll go out on another limb and say you probably don't like waiting for the next book in a favourite series. Or worse...waiting and questioning if there is a next book, say to complete the cliffhanger from the book you've just finished reading.

It really is simple. Think of your author career along the same lines you view yourself as a reader. What draws you to an author and their book(s)? What keeps you coming back to them? What drives you mad about them?

Everything that pulls and pushes you with your favourite authors is the same as what will pull and push your readers. Put on your reader hat when promoting your writer-self. Ask yourself if what you're doing would get your reader-self's attention. Yes...great. No...why?

I only have my experience to go by, but it appears we writers do two things when promoting:

1...think too much

2...think too un-creatively

We're creative people but when it comes to selling ourselves we're dull and boring.  We bang our heads thinking of complex plans on how to grab attention.

I'm your reader.

I'm excited when you're excited.

Write a fun read and I'll be back. Scare me with your story and I'll be back. Give me interesting characters and I'll be back. Capture my attention by being yourself and I'll follow you.

Readers are authors' friends. Treat us with fairness and honesty and we'll not only support you, we'll talk about you to everyone we know.

Warning...break that trust, show us a second face, and like any friend we'll walk away, but we'll still be talking. You just might not want to hear it.

Complex simplicity at its best.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Editor Time: To Prologue or Not To Prologue

that's mine
I like them when I don't notice them. I can't stand them when I do. I swear I won't write one and yet I have.

Not much help there, is there?

Prologues are a dang if you do and a dang if you don't. How much? How little? Direct copy from later in your book? New material not found later in your book? Should it be a build-up of what's to come or backstory to lead your readers in?

Confused? Yup, so am I.

I will admit right here and now that every time I open a submission with a prologue I groan. This doesn't mean I automatically toss the submission to reject. It means I've read too many dull or un-needed prologues.

I've seen some prologues which should just have been titled Chapter One...then deleted and have the story start at Chapter Two (or Three). Some prologues have been info-dumps which would have served the story better if sprinkled/weaved/blended (yeah, like that word, blended) into the story when relevant to that moment's action.

Yes, this also means information from previous books in a series. No reader...least the many I've talked with...wants to read pages upon pages of old storylines. Again, blend the VITAL bits at the right time. Glide the old news into the new.


But, but, but...no. GET TO THE STORY. No hesitating. No, you're not really being cleaver by hinting, and playing peek-a-boo with maybe this or maybe that. As a reader I'm not stupid, I can figure things out for myself. Haven't needed to be spoon-fed for more than fifty years.  (note...future topic: mistakes all us writers make)

Moving on from that argument ;)

Getting to the question...to prologue or not to prologue.

It all depends.

I hear you...oh great answer smart-arse.

But, that's just it. There is no definitive right or wrong answer to that specific question.

The answer is within the content of the prologue. If the information can be used elsewhere in a better manner where you're not going to repeat yourself...then don't prologue it. Write your story so the seams are invisible.

Be harsh on yourself. Really look at those prologue pages and ask if (a) am I being a stubborn writer about it (b) am I being a lazy writer about it  (c) am I forgetting my readers aren't stupid.

Be extremely HARSH on yourself.

The best prologues I've read have these in common:

1. Short, nothing past one page. Page and a half at the most.
2. Are driven by action or emotion. Powered by intensity. Leave me hanging needing to know more.
3. Are never repeated within the story.
4. Are repeated ONCE verbatim right before a massive shock.
5. Quietly sneak up on me...as I'm reading the story.
6. Have been so smoothly written I've not recognized the info-dumping...rare, but these happen and hats off to the writer.

Look, the most important thing as a writer...newbie and experienced...is to just write. So, write the prologue THEN kick your butt into high gear during your edits. Ask your critique group and beta readers, pointblank ask, does this story need the prologue.

Listen.

Listen to your gut.

Listen to your publisher, your reviewers.

Listen to your gut...but keep improving, be open to change. Keep writing.



Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Poetry Starts: Theory on why it's hated

pic by me by poetry journal
Were you one of those in class who cringed when the teacher said it was time for the poetry session of English?

Not me. I loved that session of English class. The words, the flow, the feel, the open meanings.

Oh wait, I forgot, we were supposed to explain what the author meant. What the author was trying to tell us, make us feel. Yeah, that part I was always way off in left field.

Then  there was writing your own poem. We had to follow the rules. Now, I'm a rule following gal, except in poetry. I hated those rules. Sure, I understand it's learning the different types. The methods on how to express myself. The strength in finding the correct word to fill both the rule and the meaning and the feeling. They always felt forced to me. Almost fake.

Now, I can't say why others hated poetry. Maybe it had something to do with being too flowery, too hidden meaning, too lovey-dovey, too much of just being too much. Perhaps even irrelevant to what we were living and experiencing.

Let's go back to the hidden meaning behind a poet's words. Because I was so out in left field this is where my marks went down. I rarely agreed with the textbook teaching. But, what I found worse, was given an assignment I was marked down a point because the teacher felt I just threw in a line for rhyming need only and not anything else.

If I had been less a rule following gal, I would have fought and explain the teacher's error instead of accepting. I would have stood up for my work.

With that said, here's the poem...



MY AUNT

My aunt was so full of love
She was as pure as a dove
She would hurt no one
But that night it won

It was cancer they all say
That took her away that day
She's gone all to soon
The cry of the loon

Life was full of happiness
She only had one illness
Everyday and night
Her eyes shone with light

With her I felt like laughing
Now that she's gone I'm crying
She's still full of fun
I know now, she won

I think of her now and then
We will meet again, but when
Life is happiness and love
Margaret is the loving dove



And that's my theory on what poetry session in English was hated...dreaded?

***

 What is Poetry Starts?

...poems and prose from now back to teen years
...remembering a first writing love
...pumping the creative well yet again
...silencing the internal critic 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Roaming Ideas: When a block is not a struggle

pic by me
This simply started as an angry comment I didn't want to share on a friend's FB page. Everyone is entitled and has the right to their own opinions, my only comment was: Respectfully, agree to disagree.

That's when I took the discussion and emotion to my own FB page with:

***

I'm p*ssed! Out of respect to another's page I won't bring this to their discussion. I will state it on my own. If you can dismiss writer's block...creativity block...as nothing, as crap, as laziness, as just a struggle at a point on whatever...then you have not (if ever) reached a block of nothingness, an abyss of emptiness where you have only a void facing you. A paralysis of solid nothing. The only working well are the tears falling because you have lost a part of yourself and all anyone can tell you is that what you are feeling is...crap, laziness, a struggle so just write. Thanks for the positive support...right, like I really meant to say positive.

***

 Emotionally? A bit, don't you think.

I won't copy the comments others left...positive feedback and shares...those are private behind the FB friendship ring. However, if you are already a FB-friend of mine, you're free to read.

I believe...and yes, I'm using the statement a teacher once upon a time would deduct marks for because, of course, I believe what I'm about the type so why say it...there is a fine line between a Creative Block and a Creative Struggle. Writer's Block the more common name; however, it is something any creative person can have no matter their medium.

Block or blockage is something that causes nothing to flow, to move forward, it stops _____ cold. Starting something new, rewriting something, just write is not going to work. Trust me, I've tried.

I'm not lazy. I'm not giving up. It's not fear.

And it is under no certain circumstances...crap.

Those descriptions...except for crap...I leave for Creative Struggle. The ideas are there, the words are there, but you don't know where to take them. They're not making sense. Your internal critic is being a witch. You just don't want to continue cause now it's more work than fun. You've reached an impasse...no progress, a deadlock, something that needs thinking and negotiating in order to move forward.

A block. My friends that is so different.

I am a visualization person. My fear is a little monster living in a cartoon doghouse on a patch of green grass that is surrounded by a chain link fence. There is a gate door, but it's locked. This little monster has a massive collar linked to a heavy chain which is attached to a solid pole in the ground. On a good day, little monster is fast asleep in its cartoon doghouse. Not quite a good day, it's patrolling its grounds. On a really bad day...the little bugger has grown in size and has destroyed its chain, picked the gate lock and is running wild.

This is how I see my block...when it has happened.

I'm standing on an inch wide ledge. In front of me is a bottomless void of nothingness. Behind me is an impregnable wall and no matter how I try and shift into a more comfortable position this wall keeps pressing on my back.

Sometimes the wall is see-through. On that other side I can see what I've done in the past. What others are doing that I desperately want to be doing to; however, there is nothing inside me.

I mean NOTHING!

A complete and solid blank of not one idea. A forgotfullness of everything I ever did before...and yes, I meant to type forgotfullness.  NOTHING. NADA. ZIP. I might as well be doing brain surgery as trying to be my creative self for as much as I know how to do surgery.

"Just Write" says a perky voice.  Ahh, duh, yeah pages upon pages of...I want to write; I want to write; I want to write. Nope, that's all that's written.

"Stop being lazy" says the annoyed voice. Ahh, well, you see, I'm not, I'm sitting right here willing to work, ready to write. The pen's full of ink. The computer's all primed and ready. The brain is a dried up husk of non-existence.

"Turn off your internal critic, don't need perfection" says another helping voice. Sorry, but that internal pain in the butt is crying in a corner with me...no creating, nothing to criticize, critic ceases to exist.

"Oh you're just hitting a dry spell...you're a little down, a little depression...a ____" Ahh, OH HELL NO! I'm missing a vital part of who I am. How I define myself. There's a phantom essence floating out of reach that I want back and I want it back NOW.

See, it's right there. Teasing me. Playing memories of what I used to have. And in that time period I wouldn't have even been able to write this posting. Because to simply put it...there was nothing there.

Don't tell me writer's block is crap. That it doesn't exist. That it is this, that, and the other thing. What you're talking about is writing struggles.

Oh, but I got over it, through it, must have cause I'm writing now. How did I do that?

I walked away from that lost self. I grieved its passing. I said my goodbyes to everything creative. Packed away my writings. 

Then what?

Something worse happened and all I had was turning back to my friends...words and writing them. And I relearned how to put them...me...back together.



***


What are Roaming Ideas?
...random writings from now back to teen years

...writings free of editing and second looks

...pumps to my creative well

...shut downs and locking away of the critical mind



 What are Overly Done Paragraphs?

...more description then is ever needed

...snapshots of possibilities



What are Dear Diary?

...inserting myself into a fictional character, where does the path take me

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Editor Time: How much is too much?

pic by me
You love your character. S/he's funny, brilliant, caring, is a master of the crossword, and can play the cello. S/he volunteers by reading favourite British mystery classics at the local nursing home where a great-uncle lives. The great-uncle is ________, ______, and ______. Together they ride around searching for the perfect hot dog quoting Confucius while helping strangers who cross their paths.

Too much?

Hmmm, forgot to tell you what they look like.

S/he has dark soulful eyes rimmed with luscious eyelashes. Lips the perfect shape for _____ and a ____ and ____ nose. Wild thick hair shimmers as s/he _______. (here you'll have to figure out if she's tall or petite, athletic or hourglass...is he tall and broad shouldered or ruggedly average?)

Great-uncle is shorter, uses a cane as a pointer more than for anything else. He's wrinkled and shaggy, twinkle-eyed flirt. Tall or stooped?

Too much?

Great-uncle stepped in to raise her/him after ________ happened with the parents. Great-uncle was a _______ who had married/never married but _______ and now the two of them _________. But, not after years of ________.

Too much?

Not for your background character study that's for your eyes only. These are all elements which will build your character and direct his/her actions. These will give your character depth and reality...maybe too much to be real, but it's your job to keep what's plausible and toss aside that which is over the top and wishful thinking. Or maybe fits a different character.

What's just happened in the opening of this post is I've told you...and it's pretty blah written...a character. At the same time I've told you nothing about the character. There's no depth, no reality, no connection to who the character is, just a flat description.

Without re-reading do you remember anything interesting about the character? Could you say you know this character?

Not really.

What you have above is a big ole info dump that just sits there. It's forgotten the moment your reader moves onto the next part of your story. If there's something vital about your character's hobby or interest it's now lost amongst the words. Even if you just said one thing, how would your reader know it was vital for the upcoming story?

If something is vital you don't need to be direct and tell. An action or glance can give far more information. A cello player might have itchy fingers to play a beautiful instrument in the room. May recognize a piece of music...which could be the signature of the killer/blackmailer? Recognize how? Why because it was the piece the cello teacher drummed into them.

As a reader I know character relationships by the manner they talk to each other, how they interact. Is this great-uncle loving or smart-mouthed? How does he communicate to his niece/nephew? You could tell me, but it would be more engaging and allow me to connect if you showed me...dialogue, action, let me watch them.

Know everything about your character, your story, the ins and outs and secrets and minute details of every location. Use only what is vital. Use it sparingly and wisely. One character noting something about another or something like location/weather/ opens up information on both.

Remember...one sentence can show your reader more than anything you could tell them.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Poetry Starts: Sentimental

pic by me
This one comes from my teen years and can be called sentimental or sappy, either works and I don't mind.

My heart has been stolen by numerous furries over my life, starting with my Nanny's cat...kitten or stupid depending on who was calling her. Yeah, she never really had a solid name. But she was Nanny's kitten.

Of course, my first cat...hubby's and mine...had to be the same colouring tabby. Much different personality...catonality? Psycho knew what and who she wanted/liked and made no bones on letting you know. She helped me through an emotional/nervous breakdown...hey, having social anxiety (phobia as it was called 20 years ago) doesn't mean you're insane ;)

This week I've heard of a few friends who are going through some heartaches and worries with their own furries. One friend's taken to fostering a new mama kitty.

So, from my teen years here we go:



They ask nothing in return
But your love
They give you everything
One could ask for
The things that make you
You
Who are they and what do they give
They are as simple as a dog (today's note, should change this to furry or furbaby)
They give you hope, joy and laughter
But most of all a sense of
Well being

Sappy? Sure, I'll agree with that :)

our psycho



grown psycho

 





***

 What is Poetry Starts?

...poems and prose from now back to teen years
...remembering a first writing love
...pumping the creative well yet again
...silencing the internal critic